Science for Action Series

Addressing the Grand Challenges for Social Work

At the Graduate School of Social Work, we’re not daunted by big challenges. We’ve embraced the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare’s 12 Grand Challenges for Social Work, answering with our Social Work Grand Challenges Science for Action Series.

Launched in 2017 to advance progress on the grand challenges initiative, the Science for Action Series will address all 12 of social work’s grand challenges over four years. The series elevates awareness of the grand challenges among social work practitioners and the public, inviting them to collaborate to solve some of the nation’s most pressing social justice imperatives. The series isn’t just about listening and learning; it’s about applying what’s learned — putting evidence to work in policy and practice in Colorado communities.

Science for Action has indeed sparked action. GSSW faculty have been testifying before state committees, hosting continued dialogues on grand challenges issues, preparing policy briefs and more. It’s the sort of action and impact other social work schools can have in their own states as we work together to create a more just society.

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“The Graduate School of Social Work uniquely pursues science for action that is also the essence of the Academy’s social work grand challenges. Our series is a national platform for dissemination of high-impact, evidence-based practice.” Dean Amanda Moore McBride

Watch Past Events

Hosted in Denver, the Science for Action Series is free and open to the public and is available via LiveStream for those who cannot attend in person. Have you missed a Science for Action workshop? You can still watch most of them online.

  • Ending Homelessness: Implementing Approaches that Work

    This workshop included a plenary address by Benjamin Henwood, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and co-lead of the Grand Challenge to End Homelessness. Denver community leaders reflected on how issues of homelessness play out locally, and in interactive sessions, participants discussed issues pertaining to specific populations affected by homelessness.

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  • Promoting Smart Decarceration in Colorado: Innovations and Opportunities

    This workshop explored current initiatives to reduce incarceration in Colorado while repairing harms and improving public safety. Smart decarceration grand challenge co-lead Carrie Pettus-Davis delivered the plenary address; she is an assistant professor and director of the Institute for Advancing Justice Research and Innovation at Washington University in St. Louis. Two panels featured Colorado experts and activists, and the day closed with a networking reception, where participants exchanged newly inspired ideas about advancing meaningful criminal justice reform.

    Watch the Video

  • Ensuring Healthy Development for All Youth: The Power of Prevention

    This inaugural event celebrated the significant gains made in advancing practices and policies aimed at promoting healthy youth development. J. David Hawkins, co-lead for the Grand Challenge to Ensure Healthy Development for All Youth, delivered the plenary address; he is the Endowed Professor of Prevention and founding director of the Social Development Research Group at the University of Washington. Panels of national and state prevention scientists, policy experts and practitioners discussed Colorado prevention initiatives and resources, strategies to increase infrastructure support for preventive interventions, and implementation of the Communities that Care prevention initiative in Colorado. In interactive working sessions, participants discussed progress in implementing Communities that Care and learned about strategies to build the prevention workforce in Colorado.

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  • Economic Equality and Financial Capability

    This workshop explored ways to reduce economic inequality and grow financial security. Michael Sherraden, PhD, delivered the keynote address. Sherraden is the only social worker known to be recognized as one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential People for his work on wealth-building strategies for those living in poverty. 

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  • Close the Health Gap

    This workshop featured keynote speaker Professor Michael Spence of the University of Washington Indigenous Wellness Research Institute (IWRI). Spence’s research focuses on interventions that promote health among Native Hawaiians through indigenous practices and values. A panel discussion followed led by Colorado state and local leaders addressing health equity in Colorado.

  • Harness Technology for Social Good

    This event examined the use of emerging technologies to address complex social issues that disproportionately affect vulnerable people. Keynote speaker Jonathan Singer, associate professor at the school of social work at Loyola University, Chicago presented ideas on his long-standing interest in the role of technology in social work practice. 

  • Create Social Responses to a Changing Environment

    Led by Associate Professor Lisa Reyes Mason, this event highlighted the speed of climate change, the ongoing degradation of the ecological environment, and the immediate and detrimental impact on marginalized communities, the need to expand the focus on environmental justice and sustainability across the social work curriculum has become increasingly apparent. One of the goals is to increase awareness of and responsiveness to the ever-changing environmental contexts in the communities where social workers practice.

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University of Denver Campus

Whether you’re looking for social justice discussions, science symposia or continuing education options, you’ll find it at the Graduate School of Social Work.

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